New Recycling Rules For Businesses About To Take Effect

Most of us are well aware of how to handle recycling at home, but what does the average New York office worker know about how commercial buildings administer the task of recycling? A looming deadline will soon provide the answer.

The City will begin enforcing its new recycling rules for businesses on August 1st following a year-long rule implementation period. With this new program, the City has the potential to divert a significant amount of waste sent to landfills. The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) estimates that out of the 9,000 tons of waste generated daily by businesses, up to 54 percent can be recycled. An additional organics component could increase that number up to an incredible 89 percent. Critical to achieving these meaningful outcomes—for both the City and our environment—is effective communication of these rules to businesses and, most importantly, diligent participation on the part of office workers or in recycling parlance, waste generators.

The new recycling rules impose the same regulations across all businesses, streamlining recycling and leaving behind a system where each business type follows a distinct set of guidelines. Under these new rules, businesses are required to separate and recycle metal, glass, plastic, beverage cartons, paper, and cardboard from trash. Businesses can either collect all recyclables together or they can source separate as long as recyclable materials are kept separate from trash at all times.

Businesses that generate textile, yard or food waste must also recycle these materials (visit the DSNY website for more information). DSNY also recommends that businesses communicate with their building’s management company or private carter directly to develop a plan to ensure that recyclables are collected and handled properly. Instituting a simpler system, such as this, is one of the reasons the City believes recycling rates will increase from a current rate of 26 percent because it will be easier for businesses to recycle and comply.

The City has done its part to disseminate these new rules to businesses and haulers by offering various educational materials through their official notice, webinar and regular trainings, on-site trainings, and easy-to-follow signs businesses can use to comply. Now, we must engage waste generators to drastically improve how much waste our City produces and sends to landfills. This means that businesses must pass these guidelines onto employees, staff and consumers, and continue to reinforce them so they are fully aware. The potential to lessen the impact business have on our environment is great, and frankly, we really don’t have a choice if we are to meet the City’s ambitious zero waste goals by 2030.

If we can implement this program successfully, there won’t be a need to drastically change the way commercial waste is collected, like the City’s proposal to create commercial waste zones. In such a system, businesses won’t be able to choose their carter. Rather, a City-approved carter will service specific areas or zones. The City’s current approach is far more effective because it integrates uniform recycling rules, similarly required for residential buildings, which makes it much easier for waste generators to comply. Implementing these rules now will also allow the City to begin improving diversion rates now rather than waiting on the zero waste deadline for commercial waste zones to be fully integrated and implemented.

The potential for success is great and we must continue to build upon what the city has accomplished thus far. Success will rely on the compliance and cooperation of rank and file workers who understand the new rules.

To learn more, visit and to sign up for a free training, host a training, or download signs and education materials. To contact DSNY or request a business recycling training, email